ISO 9001 Knowledge base

ISO 9001 Certification

ISO 9001 Certification is a general term that is used for two main things: certifying the knowledge of individuals and certifying a company’s system of quality management. What is ISO 9001 certification, you may ask?

Certifying Individuals

ISO 9001 Certifications for individuals are necessary to supply the information, knowledge and skills needed to use ISO 9001 for creating and maintaining a Quality Management System (often called a QMS) for a company. These individual certifications also allow the people involved to develop and advance a career in quality management system auditing by proving their skills for potential employers. There are many courses available, including two-day courses on how to implement ISO 9001, ISO 9001 Internal Auditor courses that are two to three days, and even ISO 9001 Lead Auditor training, which is usually in a five-day format and includes a test. The lead auditor course can only be delivered by a company that itself has been certified as being able to present ISO 9001 lead auditor training. A participant can only attain certification as an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor if the course they took was certified as an acceptable course. Afterward, it is possible to be hired by a certification body (explained below) to audit a company’s Quality Management System against the ISO 9001 standard.

For more information on ISO 9001 training and becoming an ISO 9001 lead auditor, see ISO 9001 Training and Benefits and potential problems in becoming an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor.

Certifying a Quality Management System

The ISO 9001 certification process for companies starts with the decision to use ISO 9001 as the basis for the QMS. After this the company will take all actions necessary to create and document their system by utilizing the ISO 9001 requirements as a guideline for what needs to be done. The implementation is complete after the company has maintained the system for a length of time, and then conducted internal audits and at least one management review of the system. After this, certified lead auditors from a certification body (sometimes called a Registrar) will assess the system against the requirements for ISO 9001, and if it is deemed that the system meets the standard, an ISO 9001 certificate will be issued showing that the company’s QMS is acceptable to meet the standard. The company is then considered to be ISO 9001 certified.

The Cycle of Maintaining ISO 9001 Certification for a Company

The ISO 9001 certification requirements demand that the QMS be maintained and improved, so the ISO 9001 certification is not simply a one-time thing. The agreement with the certification body continues after the initial audit (the certification audit), and they also hold ongoing routine audits of the system (called surveillance or maintenance audits). This is done on a three-year cycle, in which the initial certification audit looks at the entire ISO 9001 QMS, and the next two years’ maintenance audits only look at a portion of the system. The maintenance audits can happen once, twice, or more per year as agreed between the company and the certification body; however, the minimum is once a year during the period in which the certificate is valid. At the end of three years, the cycle will start again if the company chooses to maintain the ISO 9001 certification and the benefits it provides. Then, a recertification audit that reviews the entire system will be done.

If you need some help choosing a certification body for your company see this free List of questions to ask an ISO 9001 certification body.

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